My Love Story!!
by Rose Bridges,
My Love Story!! has largely succeeded so far by not being a conventional shojo romance. Takeo's not the hero we expect. Everyone's actions are more realistic than the usual depictions in the genre. The couple gets together early instead of sustaining their unresolved sexual tension until it breaks. My Love Story!! has done a great job busting out of the mold, but these patterns exist for a reason. They work as ways to sustain drama and audience interest. So it's unsurprising that this week, we finally get something more typical of the genre: a romantic rival.
Suna's sister Ai is back home, and she's distraught to find out that Takeo has a girlfriend. You see, she's always had a crush on Takeo, and harbored a desperate hope that she was the only one. It sounds petty and selfish—and it is—but it's common of girls who have a thing for dorky guys. It's hard not to get complacent about his lack of attention from other girls, and then become frustrated when that's no longer the case. In that way, Ai makes sense. That's the only way. Otherwise, she's as over-the-top as characters come in this series. Her theatrics are fun initially, but they get old fast, especially going into the episode's second half. That's where she gets outright creepy.
For starters, she's apparently old enough to be Takeo and Suna's babysitter when they were kids, as we see in a flashback. That's unsettling, but her actions are worse, like tracking her brother through GPS so she can intrude on Takeo and Yamato's date. (Suna is still tagging along out of Takeo's mistaken belief that Yamato is more comfortable with a third wheel around. More on that in a bit.) Then she tries to make Yamato feel bad by loudly pointing out how her cookies are salty instead of sweet. Thankfully, gracious glutton Takeo doesn't mind. Later, when she notices that Yamato is hiding something from Takeo, she insists to her brother and then Takeo himself that she's probably cheating on him or something else unsavory. Neither of them pay her any mind, leading to an opportunity for Takeo to demonstrate his selflessness. He says he doesn't care as long as Yamato isn't upset. Her feelings are all that matter to him. He just wants to know what's going on. This shocks Ai, and she reassures him that she can talk to Yamato. I'm sure nothing about that will be good, but I'm glad we could at least get a sweet moment for Takeo out of this.
Still, it was crystal-clear this week just how much My Love Story!! doesn't need characters like Ai. It comes up with stronger plotlines when it doesn't try to shove this story into familiar patterns. Even with Takeo and Yamato together, there's still plenty of drama from within to mine, instead of creating contrived trouble from without. Last week was a perfect example of this, and we got more shades of this here with just what Yamato was hiding from Takeo.
Takeo thinks Yamato is a "pure heart" who is scared of any sort of affection from him. Nothing could be further from the truth: she's angling for him to kiss her. When he promises her he won't touch her until she's older, all that does is scare her away from admitting what she really wants. It's one of those anime dilemmas that could be easily solved by everyone being a little less attached to traditional gender roles. Yamato should just kiss him. It's stronger than anything that happens with Ai though, especially considering it occurs in the middle of an established relationship. Usually, these things play out when each party is unwilling to confess their feelings. Yamato and Takeo know where each other stands, but that doesn't mean they can read each other's minds. There are still barriers of intimacy that they aren't sure how to cross. It's a great example of how "getting together" doesn't magically cure all your romantic woes. Even in an "official" relationship, there will still be problems.
That's why the Ai storyline sticks out so much. It's a relic from other anime that play it safe, a typical element in a story that's more unusual. Plus, with how gross Ai's behavior is, it's just plain uncomfortable. You can do better, My Love Story!! Ditch the scheming rival and stick to Yamato and Takeo awkwardly feeling each other out. Also, Takeo reading girls' magazines to try to understand his girlfriend better. There can never be too much of that.
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